Posts tagged: air

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Everyone has The Right To Breathe clean air. Watch a video featuring Earthjustice Attorney Jim Pew and two Pennsylvanians—Marti Blake and Martin Garrigan—who know firsthand what it means to live in the shadow of a coal plant's smokestack, breathing in daily lungfuls of toxic air for more than two decades.

Coal Ash Contaminates Our Lives. Coal ash is the hazardous waste that remains after coal is burned. Dumped into unlined ponds or mines, the toxins readily leach into drinking water supplies. Watch the video above and take action to support federally enforceable safeguards for coal ash disposal.


unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.

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View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
26 July 2011, 2:48 PM
Powerful new commercial asks America to stand up for kids' health
Tommy Allred.

Meet Tommy Allred. He lives in Midlothian, TX, a town of fewer than 10,000 roughly 18,000 residents that also hosts three of the nation's most polluting cement plants.

Like millions of kids across the U.S., Tommy has asthma. He developed the condition after his family moved to Midlothian, when he was two years old. First it was pneumonia, then double pneumonia, bronchitis, fever, and inexplicable coughing followed by shortness of breath.

Upon examination at Children's Hospital in Dallas, a pediatrician remarked to Alex Allred, Tommy's mom, in a telling way, "Oh… you live in Midlothian."

A diagnosis of asthma followed, as did numerous trips to the emergency room. Alex said recently, "I honestly did not believe how bad asthma could be—and you don't—until your son or daughter falls to the ground, they turn purple and they stop breathing."

Tommy's condition spurred Alex to action. She has become a passionate, compelling voice for clean air protections. Most recently, she lent her voice to this powerful new commercial from the League of Women Voters.

2 Comments   /  
View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
22 July 2011, 4:05 PM
Hijacking our democracy to attack our environment
Part of The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy (1773) by Domenico Tiepolo.

If you've ever suspected that Congress thinks of corporate polluters first and the polluted public last, the debacle unfolding in Washington, D.C. this week should leave you with little doubt—and a bitter taste. Many of our elected leaders have hijacked the process by which we fund government agencies to sack the environment like Odysseus did Troy.

The Trojan Horse that is the federal appropriations bill is filled with an unprecedented number of anti-environmental "riders"—provisions added to a piece of legislation that have little to no connection with the subject of the bill itself. And just as the Greeks sought to extinguish the fires of life in Troy, these riders are meant to run down the bedrock environmental protections that were created to keep our environment clean and our imperiled wildlife safe from extinction.

One egregious effort—dubbed the Extinction Rider—would paralyze the nation's ability to protect hundreds of species and turn the decision-making about endangered wildlife into a one-way street where protections can only be weakened, never strengthened.

This is an absolutely inappropriate way to set new policy. It demeans the democratic process and indicates that such extreme measures can't stand on their own—instead, they have to be slipped as stowaways into a must-pass bill.

4 Comments   /  
View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
19 July 2011, 10:36 AM
More than 600,000 people say power plants should keep it clean
Supporters of strong mercury standards for power plants could fill up Fenway 17 times over. Photo: Jared Vincent/Flickr

How many Americans does it take to clean up dirty coal-fired power plants?


A coalition of public health, environmental and social justice groups delivered that number of public comments to the Environmental Protection Agency today at an event in Boston. This is a historic amount of support for air pollution standards that are projected to reduce mercury, soot and other dangerous pollution from coal-fired power plants—saving up to 17,000 lives every year in the process. Earthjustice supporters contributed more than 45,000 of those public comments, and for that, we're very proud… and thankful.

Just how big is this outpouring of support? Well, that many people could fill Boston's historic Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, more than 17 times over. In fact, 639,000 people is greater than the population of Boston—and many other major American cities. A city of 639,000 would be the 21st largest city in America.

4 Comments   /  
View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
14 July 2011, 10:28 AM
Cherise Udell, inspiring mom for clean air, defends right to breathe in Utah
Cherise Udell of Utah Moms for Clean Air. Photo: Chris Jordan / Earthjustice

I love my mother with all of my heart. But if for some strange reason I had to choose another, I'd probably go with Cherise Udell.

Cherise is the founder of Utah Moms for Clean Air—a group of hundreds of mothers who "use the power of moms to clean up Utah's dirty air." I had the pleasure of meeting Cherise when she participated in the 50 States United for Healthy Air project, which Earthjustice helped to coordinate. She is a tour de force and a great defender of the right to breathe, but don't take my word for it. Check out this inspiring piece she wrote for the Moms Clean Air Force, cross-posted at Joe Romm's great blog, Climate Progress.

A preview to whet your appetite:

Breathing Salt Lake City's dirty air during a winter inversion is like smoking cigarettes. Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment explained that air pollution acted much like involuntary smoking because it had virtually all of the same health consequences of smoking about a quarter pack a day…

The image of my baby with a cigarette dangling from her toothless mouth was enough to move me to action. Utah Moms for Clean Air was born that day.

View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
13 July 2011, 2:14 PM
Congress pushes boundaries with anti-environmental agenda
Avant-garde, the good kind. Partial view of Marchel Duchamp's sensational 1912 painting, Nude Descending a Staircase.

A thousand political fires are burning in Washington, D.C., as members of the House of Representatives hijack the budgeting process. They aim to torch critical environmental safeguards—from endangered species protections to standards that keep our air and water clean.

Their strategy? Since Congress has to pass a spending bill that funds government agencies—the EPA, Forest Service and others—anti-environmental representatives think they can slip bitter pills into the bill and make the country swallow.

I call it avant-garde governing. First, the architects of this all-out assault on environmental protection are pushing the boundaries of our democracy. Second, they are in a different place entirely from the majority of Americans.

1 Comment   /  
View Liz Judge's blog posts
12 July 2011, 3:52 PM
Study links birth defects to MTR, but coal industry lawyers blame inbreeding

A major new scientific study shows significantly higher rates of birth defects in areas of heavy mountaintop removal mining, even after controlling for a range of other contributing factors. The study found that living near a mountaintop removal site poses a much greater risk to unborn babies than smoking during pregnancy. More than double the risk!

Says the study: "For babies born specifically with defects of the circulatory or respiratory system, smoking increased risk by 17 percent, and living in a mountaintop mining area increased risk by 181 percent. Living in a mountaintop mining area was a bigger risk for birth defects than smoking."

At this point, there have been numerous scientific studies on the environmental destruction caused by mountaintop removal mining. Mountains are torn down and destroyed, biodiverse forests are cut down and cleared out, streams are obliterated, waters across Appalachia are contaminated, and drinking water supplies are poisoned. But even more upsetting than the barren moonscapes is the fact that the people are being poisoned.

View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
08 July 2011, 10:08 AM
Killer candles, revenge of the nerds, France fracking halt
Michelle Bachman has some crazy ideas about the environment. Photo courtesy of Markn3tel.

Michelle Bachman drills down to solve the energy crisis
As the Republican contenders for the 2012 election begin to emerge, a old theme among the crew is arising deep from within the ashes of the failed McCain-Palin 2008 presidential run: Drill, baby, drill. The most recent aspiring president, Michelle Bachman, recently said that energy can be the “most easy problem for America to solve” by, you guessed it, digging for more fossil fuels, reports Grist. Unfortunately, the Republican rhetoric, as nice and easy as it may sound, relies heavily on ignoring all of the environmental and health problems that come with the practices involved in this age of extreme energy, such blowing up mountains and shoving millions of gallons of chemically treated water into rock formations.

Unfortunately for those of us stuck in the real world, this overly simplistic solution to the current energy crisis is just par for the course in Bachman’s world. According to recent news reports, Bachman has been busy spreading lies like the idea that high-speed rail from Disneyland to Las Vegas is just a ploy to get little kids hooked on gambling and that EPA is a murderous villain that’s attacking “helpless” corporations. Those kinds of allegations are akin to environmentalists calling Bachman a deranged serial killer—a serious allegation that has bite but is nonetheless inaccurate. Good thing she already beat everyone to the punch by accidently comparing herself to John Wayne Gacy

Scented candles may burn users with dangerous toxins
Filling a room with an array of scented candles may no longer be a harmless option for Romeos looking to make their Juliets swoon, reports the UK’s Daily Mail. A recent study found that burning scented candles in a poorly ventilated room may release air pollution toxic enough to raise the risk of asthma, eczema and skin complaints. Though stuffing candle wax with synthetic fragrances is harmful enough, the wicks themselves are also a concern. When burned, they release soot particles that can travel deep into the lungs and aggravate respiratory illness. To avoid getting burned, experts suggest using beeswax or soy-based candles with thin, braided wicks. Or, skip the candles and buy her fair trade, locally grown, organic, vegan chocolates. Everybody wins! 

View Liz Judge's blog posts
06 July 2011, 9:03 AM
House comes out swinging in its newly revealed 2012 spending bill

The 112th Session of the House of Representatives is at it again, doing what they do best: writing legislation to strike and block the clean air and clean water laws that keep us alive and healthy.

This morning, the House majority released its spending bill for the year 2012, and not to disappoint those who wish to live in a world with big corporations enjoying full freedom to foul our air and water without restriction, penalty or accountability, the bill manages to take direct aim at a handful of landmark environmental safeguards and a slew of major public health protections.

Legislating through appropriations is a back-door, manipulative move in its own right. It essentially means that instead of having to muster the votes required to pass new laws or take our current environmental and health safeguards off the books, House leadership is using a spending bill to simply stop and block all funding for these protections. The laws still stand as they are, they just can't be enforced. The way this House sees it, if the agencies can't get the money to enforce our current laws, there's no need to worry about what the laws actually mandate.

1 Comment   /  
View Jessica Knoblauch's blog posts
06 July 2011, 2:11 AM
"We’re talking huge quantities of waste going into very pristine habitats."
Gershon Cohen is Project Director at the Campaign to Safeguard America’s Waters, a client on Earthjustice's case regarding wastewater discharge by cruise ships in Alaska.

Recently, Earthjustice staffer Jessica Knoblauch spoke with Gershon Cohen, project director of the Campaign to Safeguard America’s Waters. In June, Earthjustice successfully defended an Alaskan ballot initiative that Cohen co-authored, which called for cruise ships to stop discharging waste into Alaska’s pristine waters.

JK: How did you first learn about cruise ship pollution? 

GC: Back in 1999, I read about how Royal Caribbean had just been convicted for dumping waste into the water. One of the places they dumped it was right near my home in Alaska. I immediately called the Environmental Protection Agency to find out if I could get a copy of their permits to see what they were supposed to be able to discharge. A few hours later, I got a call back from a very sheepish EPA person who said “Gee. They don’t have permits.” I said, “What do you mean they don’t have permits? How could you be discharging millions of gallons of wastewater and not have a permit?” He said, “Well, it looks like they’re exempt. I was like, “No kidding. I wonder how they worked that?” That’s where it all started for me. 

8 Comments   /  
View Sam Edmondson's blog posts
05 July 2011, 12:18 PM
New research links air pollution to depression, brain changes

Remember the anti-drug commercial where illicit drugs (played by butter) fried a brain (played by an egg)? Over the action, a gravelly voice intoned "This is drugs. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?"

Those PSAs were a fixture of my childhood. Now, well into adulthood, I wonder if it is perhaps time for a redux. But in the sequel, instead of playing drugs, butter would play the part of dirty air.

Why the update, you ask? Because it turns out that over time, lungfuls of dirty air may affect our memories and even our moods.

This revelation comes from a neuroscience research team at Ohio State University, which published its findings this week in the journal Molecular Psychiatry (find it next to Rolling Stone at the local newsstand, or here). The research suggests that chronic exposure to soot—also known as fine particulate matter, or PM2.5—leads to inflammation in the hippocampus and cell connections therein that are both weaker and fewer. Such changes are connected to decreased learning and memory function, as well as depression.

1 Comment   /